Episode [1.20] – “Green Isn’t Your Color”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“Floottershy! I have been looking for you everywhere. We have the thing at the place!”
“I’ll see you at the spa? Our usual time?”
“Of course! I can’t wait to hear all about the… thing… at the place.”
The opening sequences in this show are a bit hit or miss: sometimes they’re great, other times they kind of fall flat. This week’s falls into the first category. I absolutely love seeing how Fluttershy and Rarity have a long-running friendship that involves a weekly get-together at the spa, as it helps to combat the stereotypical “a group of strangers randomly meets up to save the world” trope. Not that MLP:FiM necessarily suffered from that from the get-go, as everypony save Twilight knew each other already, but it’s a nice bit of character enrichment nonetheless. While I never would have guessed it myself, I’ve grown to be a fan of slice-of-life stories: ones that don’t necessarily have some grand adventure or world-threatening antagonist to them (though those can certainly be equally enrapturing), but rather ones that explore the everyday worlds of the characters I’ve grown to know and love deeply.
Included into said fondness of slice-of-life is a fondness of random bits of world-building (again, something I never really paid due attention to prior to this series). Up in this episode: hornicures. Now intuitively I’d think that something responsible for channeling potent magical energies would be absolutely off-limits to touching, much less filing down. However, that a unicorn horn is a body part that needs grooming just like a mane or a hoof actually kind of brings it down to earth a bit. Is it special? Absolutely. But is it immune from the impact of day-to-day life in Ponyville? Nope. Running off on a tangent a bit, several fanfics bring up the concept of “horn rot,” a kind of degenerative disease unique to unicorns that is potentially fatal if not promptly treated, which is a bit macabre but really not much different than, say, diabetic neuropathy, in that it’s a very real danger about which one with a predisposition (in this case, being a unicorn) would be prudent to be cognizant. Pegasus Ponies certainly have similar Pegasus-specific pathologies related to their wings, and I’m sure there’s some sort of malady that affects only Earth Ponies out there.
Rarity being short with her friends when under pressure is a character trait I don’t necessarily look forward to seeing but one I deeply appreciate being written into her personality. It’s something that seems to be prevalent in those who are masters of their profession: they can’t always do their job alone but they absolutely cannot tolerate anything but perfection from those helping them, so social graces are temporarily jettisoned in favor of ensuring the task is completed. An outsider looking in could easily conflate that attitude for rudeness and general “being a jerk”-ness, but Rarity’s friends know that beneath the neurotic snippiness is true gratitude and love. I’ve often voiced my disappointment with blatant “in-your-face” explanations of storyline events or concepts in deconstructions of previous episodes, but in this case we have an emotional construct that can be difficult to explain even to adults. That Rarity spells it out up-front to her friends in a way that even kids could understand gets two hooves-up from me.
Rarity sure has been getting lucky with catching the eyes of the big stars: first Hoity Toity, then Sapphire Shores, and now Photo Finish. And while all of those celebs certainly are characters, Photo Finish is quite the character. She’s right up there with Trixie on the Most Self-Absorbed Ponies leaderboard, but her intentions are at least partially altruistic as her success is entirely dependent on the well-being of those ponies she chooses to become superstars. So it’s quite a shock (to the ponies, anyway; we could see this one coming from a light year away) when the pony she picks to go stratospheric is the most socially anxious one imaginable. This crazy twist of fate begins the spectacularly sticky chain of white lies: Rarity urging Fluttershy to model despite being intensely jealous and spiteful, Fluttershy continuing to despite hating it (if Fluttershy says “hate,” you know it’s bad), and both of them inadvertently dragging Twilight into the middle of everything with a promise not to tell the other. Okay, I guess Spike’s confession of love for Rarity came first, and ultimately is the one that left Twilight FOREVERRRR cursed by the reflection of Pinkie Pie in every mirror for the rest of her life, but whatever.
This episode really does explore some sophisticated emotional quagmires: confiding information about one friend with another friend, promising to keep information from others, and then reconciling multiple conflicting promises of secrecy. On the level of ten-year-olds, these situations can result in hurt feelings and damaged friendships; scale these same situations up a bit and you get scandal or national unrest or outright international war. These are very real problems with sometimes very difficult solutions, if they’re so lucky to have a solution at all. Poor Twilight gets caught in the middle of all this, but since the simplest (and, honestly, probably the best) solution of simply sitting Rarity and Fluttershy down in the same room together and getting everypony on the same page has been more or less tossed out the window on account of a Pinkie Pie Promise (evidently one of the most powerful magicks in all of Equestria), she comes up with some convoluted plan to resolve the issue via counterproductivity. In a delightfully silly turn of events Twilight’s plan to cause a backfire backfires, but eventually it achieves the primary objective of getting everypony in the same room and talking. While it did cause a lot of unnecessary drama in the process, the whole ordeal (complete with what might have been a very oblique reference to A Dog and Pony Show, what with Fluttershy acting like a dog) did serve to show the very strong bond of friendship that Rarity and Fluttershy share.
That, and show the hilariously absurd fickleness of the fashionista elites, which could be an allegory to the absurd fickleness of popularity in general: these days, it seems that all it takes is one person with a huge Twitter following or a really neat hat to influence the masses into going gaga over something. Yeesh.
Overall, enjoyable episode for me: a wonderful slice-of-life story that dives into very complex topics but handles them with a light yet effective touch.
The first parting song for this episode is actually both a song and an animation: Picture Perfect Pony by the immaculately talented JanAnimations Studios. Yes, that’s fan-produced content (sweet Celestia). But sadly no, that’s not the original video, as it was taken down by a C&D from Hasbro. (Fortunately for JanAnimations and the pony community, this one wasn’t completely doom and gloom: some of Jan’s videos were allowed back online, and as of the time of this writing he and Hasbro are working on a mutually beneficial deal, as explained in his recent informative video about the whole situation.)
The second parting song is just a song, but a fantastic one at that: Photoshoot by And The Rainfall. I love listening to this song while driving down the highway in the middle of the night. Jammin’.
I don’t have much to add to this one that Gerf hasn’t already covered wonderfully. It’s a fun setup, mixing the plot of Fluttershy accidentally being thrust into all the fame and attention Rarity wants and how their mutual feelings of disappointment simmer and build, with Twilight finding herself stuck between two friends she wants to help but struggling to find a way to do so without betraying the trust both have placed in her. Pinkie Pie as the crazed Jimminy Cricket voice always reminding Twilight of the promises she made is a particularly clever way to make use of her character to enrich everyone else’s story, and again shows Meghan McCarthy’s gift at handling ensembles. Also, creepy Pinkie can be creepy indeed, though I love how her glare as she threateningly munches on the apple slowly bubbles over into delight at how juicy and tasty the apple is.
I also like that, while Twilight doesn’t just snap and finally sit the two down or spill things, she does help instigate their mutual revelations through sabotaging Fluttershy’s runway show, which leads to Rarity realizing she need to support her friend instead of boil with envy, and thus comes the final conversation. Even then, Twilight still spills the beans on Spike’s totally secret non-secret, absolving her of a perfect ending, but it’s all still good in the end.
My criticisms are minor. Photo Finish is a bit over-played in her early 90s German severity, and falls flat for me for the most part, though I do like her posse and grand entrances. Rarity also gets pushed a bit far for me this episode, yet again trumping up her vanity to extreme levels before it winds back around to a learning moment. I also continue to not be a fan of the way she takes advantage of Spike’s visible crush, which we all know she knows about.
But these are minor quibbles. I really enjoy the episode. I love how Fluttershy’s fame is all because of her uncomfortable shyness. I love everyone slipping her on ads all around town, including for Applejack’s apples. I love the bits of worldbuilding Gerf pointed out, and will further add the harnesses the paparazzi wear to hold their cameras for them. I love repeated moment of Fluttershy building to a point of unleashing rage, only for it to come out in her classic meek fashion.
It’s a solid episode.
I realize I start a lot of these with “this is one of my favorites”, which probably devalues that kind of statement over time, but… well, no “but”. I’m doing it again. This is one of my favorite episodes of the season. While Party of One runs away cackling madly with the crown of “Favorite Episode”, this one might be tied with A Bird in the Hoof for my second favorite. The fact that I grabbed screenshots like crazy for this episode despite not even being first and picking the shot for the episode probably speaks to how fun this one is for me.
A big part of why I took so many screenshots is because this episode is stuffed absolutely full with visual gags. The humor hits fast and hard in this one, and a lot of it is delivered in actions rather than in words. Pinkie’s antics throughout just add so many awesome moments (she makes a fantastic tertiary character, getting to supply her zany off-the-wall energy without having to particularly justify it with anything). We’ve talked before about how she almost seems to be the only one who realizes she’s in a cartoon (which often gets flanderized into full-on medium awareness by the fandom), and this episode is a very good example of where a lot of that kind of thing comes from, with Pinkie popping out of random objects to interject in scenes she’s otherwise entirely absent from.
Gerf and Noel pretty much covered the plot of the episode pretty strongly, and I don’t have much to add there (aside from yes, very yes, love this episode, love the story beats, and the moral is well delivered). So instead I’m going to home in on some of the specific character bits. This is very much a Fluttershy and Rarity episode, and both get to play to their strengths. Fluttershy is passive throughout without being an outright doormat (she’s doing things she’d rather not, but mostly because she feels like it’s important to her friends). She’s adorably meek for most of the episode (going along first with Rarity’s whims and later being swept along by the hurricane that is Photo Finish), but there’s still a few shots of her having rare moments of irritated disapproval, largely due to getting yanked and prodded around during prep for fashion shoots.
It’s actually fairly lucky for Rarity in this situation that it’s Fluttershy who gets picked up as the model and not, say, somepony like Rainbow Dash (granted, Dashie would never be able to stand still long enough for photo shoots). One could pretty easily see a scenario with with roles swapped out having the situation go to the other pony’s head, and then we’d have a completely different episode. As it stands, the position falls to the least likely out of the six to have her ego go out of control, and Fluttershy spends the entire episode wishing she could get out of the situation.
Rarity, of course, ping-pongs back and forth between trying to gracefully accept that her friend has been picked over her (especially when she thinks Fluttershy actually wants what she’s been given) and being a big jealous judgemental jealous-jealousy-pants. Which of course lets her be over-dramatic as all get-out, actually donning a black cloak and hood in reaction to the second photoshoot, among other things.
But the fact that she’s trying so hard to be happy for her friend keeps the latter from overwhelming the former, and it’s capped off by her going very quickly from taking a small initial amount of sadistic pleasure in watching Fluttershy’s failed shoot to outright horror at watching her friend bomb on stage and doing what she can to make it right. Knowing what we already know about Rarity keeping from breaking completely down as she watches a friend who doesn’t even want the attention run away with the very thing Rarity craves almost more than anything else (not just attention but acceptance into the high-society crowd) has to be incredibly difficult for her, and makes her if not just as sympathetic as Fluttershy in this episode, at least relatively close.
Plus she waits around for Fluttershy at the spa for what’s probably several hours if the condition of her hooves are any indication.
Although to Fluttershy’s credit missing the appointment comes from being dragged along to yet another photo shoot under protest rather than her outright forgetting about her get-together. Which highlights something I really like about this episode – it’s very clear that a lot of effort was put into the writing to keep things balanced so that neither Fluttershy nor Rarity wound up being “the problem” of the episode. Clearly there is a problem at hand, and their actions are counterproductive towards solving it until they wise up, but it happens in such a way that neither becomes the bad guy of the episode.
And then, there’s Photo Finish. Oh, man, Photo Finish.
This character is, if nothing else, one of the most memorable of the minor characters to ever show up, mostly due to how over the top she is. I can see her being too much for some people, but I absolutely adore her and find her hilarious. It’s worth pointing out that she’s modeled after Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (she was not a reference to Lady Gaga or to Edith Head, as some assumed at the time, although there’s definitely also a resemblance to both there as well, especially the latter as her delivery is somewhat evocative of Edna Mode from The Incredibles who was based on Edith Head). And probably unsurprising considering her up-to-11 ham that gives Rarity a run for her money, she’s also voiced by Tabitha St. Germain.
Finally, Pinkie, Spike and Twilight round out the episode as the tertiary characters, with Twilight being plopped right in the middle of the debacle, knowing both secrets and seeing the misunderstanding for what it is, and struggling hard with trying to keep quiet about it. She’s clearly not good at keeping secrets, as she’s all too eager to blab to both parties, really only being held back by Pinkie’s insistence that loose lips sink friendships. By the end she’s genuinely trying to keep from blurting out each the clear answer to each of them, to the point of having to physically restraining herself.
It gets to the point where she’s so bottled up with restraint that she eventually can’t take it anymore and just blurts out the first secret that comes to her mind, declaring Spike’s crush to… well, mainly to Photo Finish, who likely doesn’t have the slightest idea who she’s talking about. It’s still enough to upset Spike, though.
Spike, somewhat unfortunately, often can fall into the role of butt monkey, especially when Rarity is involved. He’s a little kid with a crush and does everything he can to be near the object of his affections in the hopes of getting them returned, and… well, Rarity does kind of take advantage of it. Whether she’s humoring him in something he’d likely be doing anyways or genuinely exploiting his feelings for free labor is up in the air, although it does at least come out looking like the latter occasionally. To be fair, Spike has a lot of his own ego and identity tied up in his role as the helper (mainly with Twilight, although it’s there for the others to a lesser extent, with the exception of Rarity, obviously), it just comes out extra strong to Rarity for obvious reasons. Still, Rarity doesn’t always come out looking that great when he’s involved.
Best Pony Pinkie. Oh man, Pinkie. This is the introduction of the Pinkie Pie Swear/Pinkie Promise (which Twilight humorously mistimes, shoving her hoof rather painfully right into her eye). Keeping that level of promise is implied to be really important to the group, although we don’t actually get to see the consequences of breaking one. Yet.
But really, just everything Pinkie does in this episode I adore. From being utterly shocked at Spike’s confession, to threatening Twilight rather menacingly by eating an apple, to her amazing expansion on the typical pantomime of zipping one’s mouth closed.
Which is what I’m going to leave you with. This bit of genius that spawned from that particular scene.